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The Blind Watchmaker

The Blind Watchmaker is a book written by Richard Dawkins refuting certain criticisms made on his previous book The Selfish Gene. Both books are intended to popularize the Williams Revolution in the understanding of evolution and heavily emphasize microevolution at the expense of macroevolutionary theories.

In his choice of the title for this book, Dawkins makes reference to William Paley's statement of the idea of Natural Theology. Paley, arguing over fifty years before Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, held that the complexity of living organisms was evidence of the existence of a divine creator by drawing a parallel with the way in which the existence of a watch compels belief in a human watchmaker.

Dawkins, contrasting the difference between human design, with its potential for planning, and the working of natural selection, therefore dubbed the latter The Blind Watchmaker. In developing his argument as to the plausibility of natural selection as an explanation for the adaptations shown by organisms, Dawkins describes his experiences with a computer model of artificial selection implemented in a program also called The Blind Watchmaker. This program was sold separately as a teaching aid for both Macintosh and IBM compatible personal computers.

In an appendix to a later edition of the book, Dawkins explains how his experiences with computer models lead him to a greater appreciation of the role of embryological constraints on natural selection. In particular, he recognised that certain patterns of embryological development could lead to the success of a related group of species in filling varied ecological niches, though he continued to maintain that this should not be confused with the ideas associated with group selection. He dubbed this insight the evolution of evolvability.

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